After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful

After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060928179
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/28/1997
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

Janis Abrahms Spring, Ph.D., is a nationally acclaimed expert on issues of trust, intimacy, and forgiveness. In private practice in Westport, Connecticut, she is the author of the award-winning How Can I Forgive You?, The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To, and Life with Pop: Lessons on Caring for an Aging Parent.

Read an Excerpt


Can A Couple Survive Infidelity?

As a clinical psychologist who has been treating distressed couples for twenty-one years, I answer yes—provided that each of you is willing to look honestly at yourself and at your partner, and acquire the skills you need to see yourself through this shattering crisis.

It may help to remind yourself that you're not alone. Statistics vary widely, but according to one of the most recent and reputable studies, as many as 37 percent of married men and 20 percent of married women have been unfaithful. No one knows the exact percentages; I'm sure that someone who lies to a spouse might also lie to a researcher. But even by the most conservative estimate, we can say with some confidence that, in the United States, 1 in every 2.7 couples—some 20 million—is touched by infidelity.

What Constitutes an Affair?

Must an affair be coital? What about a kiss? What about lunch?

I don't try to answer these questions because, in the end, what matters is what matters to you. A breach of trust depends entirely on what you agreed to—or thought you agreed to. Virtually all of you would feel betrayed by a partner who had intercourse with a third person, whether during a one-night stand or as part of a long-term emotional entanglement. But many of you would also feel betrayed, and certainly threatened, by other intimate behaviors—a hug, say, or the sending of a dozen white roses. Five years ago a patient of mine named Sharon took her blouse off and showed her breasts to her best friend's husband. They never went further, but the two couples have been struggling withthis violation ever since.

Another type of affair involves the sex addict—a person who attempts to counter feelings of low self-esteem with compulsive or uncontrollable sexual activity. This is a specialized disorder that is beyond the scope of this book.

Three Judgments I Don't Make

1.I don't make blanket judgments about whether affairs are, in themselves, good or bad. What may be enhancing for one of you may devastate the other, and destroy the relationship. I have found, however, that a continuing affair, without the consent of both partners, perpetuates the dysfunction in a relationship and makes the forging of an intimate attachment virtually impossible. If you're an unfaithful partner who is serious about reconnecting, you must, I believe, give up your lover.

2.I don't separate the two of you into victim and victimizer, betrayed and betrayer. Each of you must accept an appropriate share of responsibility for what went wrong. Rather than assign blame, I encourage each of you to confront those parts of yourself that led to the affair, and to change in ways that rebuild trust and intimacy. That doesn't mean I hold you equally accountable for the affair—no one can make another person stray. But I do ask you both to be accountable for the distress that may have contributed to the affair.

3.I don't suggest that you should stay together no matter what, or bolt just because you feel unhappy. Instead, I invite each of you to explore with me your unique reasons for having or giving up a lover, for choosing or refusing to recommit. Your decision should be deliberate and well-considered, not based on feelings alone. Your feelings, in fact, may betray you.

A Word About the Choice of Terms

Throughout the text I refer to partners as hurt or unfaithful. The hurt partner is the person in the primary relationship whose assumption of monogamy has been violated. The unfaithful partner is the one who had the affair. It was difficult choosing labels for these people. Certainly the unfaithful partner may feel equally hurt at times. In general, however, it's the one whose partner strays who experiences the greater sense of devastation. I don't categorize partners as betrayed or betrayer because these words convey a certain moral righteousness or condemnation, and put the burden of responsibility on one partner alone, which is almost never the case. I refer to the person with whom you or your partner had the affair as the lover, whether the relationship is terminated or ongoing.

The quotes and case studies I refer to throughout the text are drawn from my practice over the years, but I've masked all identities so that I don't violate any confidences.

Who is This Book For?

I wrote After the Affair primarily for any two people who want to rebuild their relationship after one of them has been unfaithful. This includes married and cohabitating couples, heterosexuals and gays. I try to address hurt and unfaithful partners with equal weight.

My book is also for:

  • people whose relationship ended as a result of infidelity, who are having a difficult time moving beyond the experience, and who want to understand why the relationship didn't survive and what they should accept as an appropriate share of responsibility for what went wrong;

  • people who want to make better sense of the infidelity they experienced in their own families when they were growing up, in order to avoid similar patterns of behavior in their own relationships;

  • professionals and spiritual leaders who treat individuals and couples affected by infidelity;

  • partners who are thinking of having an affair and who want to understand their feelings better before taking any irreversible steps;

  • partners who want to think through the advantages and disadvantages of revealing a terminated affair;

  • partners who have no intention of disclosing a terminated affair, but who still want to rebuild their relationship and learn about themselves;

  • partners who suspect their mates of infidelity but have never confronted them;

  • couples who are struggling with secrets, lies, and trust issues other than infidelity;

  • couples who want to learn how to cope with the inevitable disenchantments of conjugal life, before turning elsewhere.

Three Stages of Healing

The book guides you through three identifiable stages—some would call them minefields—as you react to, grapple with, and recover from the affair.

The First Stage: Normalizing Your Feelings

Once the affair is revealed, both of you are likely to get swept up in an emotional whirlwind, the hurt partner overcome by a profound sense of loss, the unfaithful partner overcome by conflicting choices and emotions. By giving a language to your feelings, I hope to reassure you that you're not crazy or unstable, that others have experienced the same pain and confusion, that you're not alone.

The Second Stage: Deciding Whether to Recommit or Quit

Before your emotions can settle down, you need to confront your ambivalence about whether to stay or leave. By exploring your options, you'll be able to make a thoughtful decision based on your circumstances and needs. "What can I expect from love?" "Should I trust my feelings?" "How can I tell if my partner is right for me?"—these are the types of questions I'll help you answer.

The Third Stage: Rebuilding Your Relationship

If you decide to recommit, you're likely to spend months, perhaps years, working to restore trust and intimacy. By reviewing strategies with you, I hope to give you the tools to:

  • decipher the meaning of the affair, and accept an appropriate share of responsibility for it;

  • say goodbye to the lover;

  • earn back trust (if you're the unfaithful partner), or communicate what you need to trust again (if you're the hurt partner);

  • talk in ways that allow your partner to hear you and understand your pain, and listen in ways that encourage your partner to be open and vulnerable with you;

  • recognize how you may have been damaged by early life experiences, and how you can keep these experiences from contaminating your relationship today;

  • manage your differences and dissatisfactions, so that you can stay attached even when you don't feel particularly loved or loving;

  • become sexually intimate again;

  • forgive your partner, and yourself.

I assume throughout the book that the secret is known, but in some cases it won't be. In the Epilogue, I help you, the unfaithful partner, weigh the pros and cons of telling. Whatever you decide, you and your partner can still work to renew your life together.

A Death Knell or a Wake-up Call?

Some of you may not want to risk starting over and exposing yourself to further hurt or disappointment. Turning your back on a damaged relationship may be the simplest or most sensible solution, one that frees you from the tyranny of hope. But it may also be a way to escape growing up, facing some bitter truths about life, love, and yourself, and assuming the terrible burden of responsibility for making your relationship work.

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After the Affair 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My wife keeps asking why we can't get past her affair. It's over, she says. She fine, almost happy, and I'm flip-flopping. Sometimes fine, other times angry, sad, even vengeful. I started thinking I must just be an emotionally weak person. Why can't I move on? How can she understand, when I can't. Then I picked up this book and there it was. I am human afterall, and so is she. When will I get over this anger, I don't know but at least now I know why it's there and now so does my wife. I will tell you right now that if it weren't for the children, she'd be out the door, by her choice or mine. Just like it says in this book. I know my wife has no regrets for her actions, but plenty of regrets to the reactions of being found out. Just like it says in the book. I now understand that she thought he was her soulmate, but now understands she was just his playmate. Just like it says in the book. I believe the author places too much blame on the hurt partner, but if you want to work it out I guess you have to give the unfaithful partner some solace, too. I hate that this has happened to my 17 year marriage, but I'm grateful I came across this book. I am not weak! I am human! This has been the best book I have found on making me whole again, and I think it's the best chance of making my marriage work again. I will say that I am sorry you are going through something similar in your marriage. It stinks, doesn't it? Get this book and start getting better. I recommend it so highly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What I never thought would happen, happened. I discovered my spouse was involved in committing double adultery. It ended immediately. For my spouse, deep regret, shame, remorse, and humiliation. For me, anger, grief, disbelief, and an 'avalanche of losses', including the sweet memories of our marriage ceremony¿¿gone. We went through 'post-affair hell' for some time. Five months into recovery and working with a wonderful marriage therapist, I came upon this book 'After the Affair'. We began reading it ever so slowly, one chapter at a time on weekend mornings. (We even bought a huge cushy chair-and-a-half with lots of pillows to sit and read together, cuddle, talk, connect, recover and heal in.) This book made so much sense to us. It shed light on the truth about what happened and why. The affair was put in its place¿¿a big fat mistake. It became increasingly clear to my spouse what non-substance that clandestine activity was based upon. When you don't even know each other, are caught up in the notions of romantic love (which must end), there's a lot of hormones and self-suggestion going on. And oh, what a price was paid, on both many people negatively impacted. We are still recovering, but glad to have survived this crisis and kept our family together. This was the first of many books which helped us through. 'After the Affair' remains to be one of the best for us.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Five years ago I met the love of my life.(Lucas) In 1998 we had our first child, moved into a nice home, bought a new car and with in 18 months from our first...we had our second child. We had a happy family. This past July I slept with his best friend, from then on it turned into an affair from a one nighter. I didn't understand how I could turn my feelings off for the father of my children. As I look back now, I left him painfully. I had myself conviced that I didn't love him...I had a different answer to everyone who asked me how I could break up my family and do this to my children. After a while I realized I loved Lucas and wanted to get back together with him. I decided to tell him what I did, I knew that nothing solid could be built on a lie. Since I told him he has been real bitter, I had a hard time handling this. I bought this book, I couldn't wait to get home at night to be able to read it. I highlighted, folded pages and underlined areas, it was like reading the past 6 months of my life. Lucas says he has no intention on working on our relationship, he won't even read this book. Reading what I have from 'After the Affair' I've learned why I had the affair and understand where Lucas is comming from when he talks to me the way he does. People will tell you 'once a cheater, always a cheater' , 8 months ago I may have said it myself, today it makes me angry to hear it. I don't plan on giving up on Lucas, and hope to be able to tell you in time he has forgiven me. It's okay to make a mistake as long as a lesson has been learned. I just hope my lesson didn't cost my children as well. (If you have any questions please email me. I'm willing to do my best to answer any questions anyone has on this subject, even if you are the hurt.)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Before this spring, it would never happen to me, but was I surprised. After 20 years of marriage to my high school sweetheart, I found out she was having an affair with one of our friends. This book answered a lot of my questions and showed me that my feelings were not only MINE. The book was very helpful in understanding the feelings that are part of the healing process, both mine(the hurt partner) and my wife's. The book is also not written as a who's to blame book, but as healing for both partners. My wife and I will be married for another 20+ years due to this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Me and my fiance were high school sweethearts, at about our five year anniversary, I found out about his affair. It was the worst thing that has ever happened to me, the worst part was that we were to be married in a few months. I wasn't sure what to do, or what I was feeling was normal and if I should move on, or try and forgive. This book gave all the answers on why it happened, if you should stay, or try again, and how to heal your wounds. Today, nearly 4 months later, our relationship is stronger, and we are closer than ever. We read the book together, talked about what we read, and are still currently trying to heal those wounds. This book has been a great help. It helped us to understand, and have the strength and hope to take the long and hard journey to recovery and forgiveness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I exposed my husband's affair I was searching for anyone & any read that would validate what I was going through. I bought the book & my husband & I read it together. By reading this book, going to marriage counseling & alot of hard work & prayers my husband & I have put our marriage back together after being separated for almost 6 months. This was the only book about affairs that I found useful. It challenges both partners to look at what made their marriage unhealthy. We have been back together now for about 3 months & our marriage is the healthiest its ever been. It doesn't mean that their still isn't pain & alot of intentional communication & work. We still use the book. I highly recommend this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book will truly give you hope for a marital future after the ugliness of infidelity. The key to dealing with it all is getting past your own anger, guilt, resentment and pain before dealing with it as a couple. For that, I'd also recommend that you buy "When God Stopped Keeping Score," an intimate look at the power of God and forgiveness that every woman should read. Given the chance, it too could change your life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a must read if you are struggling in the aftermath of an affair. It provides such a great insight on why things happen and really challenges to explore your heart and feelings. Another great thing about it is that it does not place outright blame on one party or another, looks at both spouses perspectives of the situation and gives the necessary tools to start rebuilding. Things that other people, family, therapists, etc. may have told you a hundred times but never really made sense become clear with reading this book. It has helped me very much so far and my husband is now reading it as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
a great book to help you make sense of it all. The chapter about forgiving yourself for your moment of insanity saved me from total embarassment. Highly reccomend this book if you want to work through your problems, or even if you just want to understand how this happened to you. I am happily married 4 years later.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good advice and provides the "hurt person" with validation of his/her feelings--helps you to understand what you are feeling is normal and common.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you thought you knew the signs read this truly insightful. Much needed look into the workings of the affair.
MeditationesMartini on LibraryThing 9 months ago
Let me try to express to you the virtues of this book, because while I think they will be apparent to anyone picking it up, they are hard to put into words.

Well, okay: why are you picking it up? Unlike so many of the "Joe/Josephine Blow, PhD"s who crank these "change-your-life/love" type manuals out into the ether and live off the fat of the proceeds (vampires! sadness vampires!), Spring is a competent prose stylist, but you're not opening After the Affair looking for a gripping read. (I recommend The Magus by John Fowles--everyone I give it to,and there have been many, is all "oh man! oh man!")

No, you're presumably trying to put your relationship back together after one of you has cheated, or at least wondering if you can. And from that perspective, I think there are three things needed from a book like this:

1. Ideas. Use value. the book has to give you a solid plan of action for forward motion, because--aside from anything else--time is of the essence and you want to start trying to repair the damage or at least moving toward a place where you can begin, before the hurt metastasizes. Everybody has these, from Dr. Phil to your buddy Wayne, but some of them are worse and more self-aggrandizing (*coughnototsaypatronizingwithallyour"Italkatseminars!nobodyreallyhurtanybody!ujustgottacommunicatebro"JonathanRobinson) than others.

2. Understanding. When I say "you" in this review, I am speaking of both partners, "hurt" and "unfaithful" as Spring calls them, and it is impossible to overstate how important her balanced approach (in this least balanced of all situations) is. "You, the hurt partner, are feeling . . . "; "you, the unfaithful partner, must . . . "; her unproclaimed philosophy of relationship pathology seems to be "humans are built to love, to pairbond, to be there for each other, and when one partner cheats it is because something is seriously wrong, always;" or in simpler terms, to both partners, "you are in pain." But, "the hurt partner's pain is much deeper, and the unfaithful partner chose to cause it in a direct way that is uniquely crisis-precipitating." In other words, there hurt partner must come first, but there must always still be two of you in the room.

3. Sensitivity. The fact that I make this a whole point separate from "understanding" perhaps sheds a lot of light on my own feelings as I go through this process. But aa lot ofyou must be feeling similarly fragile, and knowing that what you need desperately is to be just the opposite--to find strength. Especially in her lyrical introduction, Spring puts you at your ease. "This will help," she says. "I'm not here to tell you what to think." And she even is agnostic on such fraught matters as whether you should tell your partner about the affair, and while I know my own feelings on the matter, especially now, and suspect that Spring is less neutral than she comes across, that atmosphere of secular tolerance is a balm--hard to create in a book--and necessary. You unclench, and the understanding of how your partner is hurting washes over you--it was there all the time, but you were like "No!Me!" Spring helps you work at loving again, in a spirit of humility.

Spring sees the aftermath of an affair as a three-step process--first, normalizing your feelings; second, deciding whether to recommit or quit; third, rebuilding. (I should note that this book is light on the acronyms aand twelve-step processes that elicit an instinctive snob reaction in overdeveloped aesthetes like probably everyone on LibraryThing--although it uses some of the best and simplest, like the "mirror speech" thing where you paraphrase what your partner is saying until they think you've got it--and, for a self-help book, heavy on academic rigour.) For me at least, this description felt immediately familiar and accurate. She doesn't so much "tackle" each sub-topic--the hurt partner's loss, the unfaithful partner's confusion, and then undestanding your ideas about love,

LTW on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Written by a clinical psychologist who has been treating distressed couples for 22 years, it guides both hurt and unfaithful partners through the three stages of healing: Normalizing feelings, deciding whether to recommit and revitalizing the relationship. It provides proven, practical advice to help the couple change their behavior toward each other, cultivate trust and forgiveness and build a healthier, more conscious intimate partnership.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book
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This book was very insightful, and helped me thoroughly. There was a lot of information that didn't completely pertain to my situation, but I read through it anway. It basically validated everything I was feeling, and I wish my husband would have read it. Unfortunately not all of us want to come to terms with the issues that bring us to the point of an affair. This book explains how both partners need to make changes and adjustments. I definitely encourage anyone who is a victim of an affair to utilize this book, and I would suggest that anyone who has been unfaithful to read this book thoroughly.
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